Analysis Paralysis

I think an appropriate topic for the first entry to this blog is Analysis Paralysis – it is both a fascinating phenomenon, and a rhyming one:

The term “analysis paralysis”… refers to over-analyzing… a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or “perfect” solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.


The term comes from the world of software development, but has a much longer history, and can be applied to most any field, such as ‘choking’ in sports. This may be an explanation for why so many of my peers, myself included, as recent graduates, haven’t chosen a career yet. Your graduation speaker may have said you can do anything you want, but that is way too many options (especially combined with the reality that anything you want probably isn’t hiring right now). Should I work in sales, insurance, real estate, finance, analysis, energy? Who knows?

With that as our problem, what’s the solution? As usual, one can turn to the Marine Corps for results. The following is from David Freedman’s book, Corps Business: the 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines:

Principle No. 1: Aim for the 70-percent solution. It’s better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it’s too late. (New York: HarperBusiness, 2000. Print.)

I think it’s interesting to point out that this is principle no. 1. Although analysis paralysis can be annoying during a game of Settlers of Catan, it can be deadly for a commanding officer to stall too long. Applied to business, the same error could also have huge costs. Perhaps we don’t realize exactly how big of a problem analysis paralysis can be in terms of opportunity cost, because it would be a very difficult thing to measure in terms of the macro-economy. So how about we all just agree to make more 70-percent solutions?


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